Tuesday, October 04, 2005

How To Not Write A Review Without Really Trying Step One: Don't Mention the Film.

Jason and the Argonauts
1963, USA
Don Chaffey

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It makes one long for things that childhood once made special, things that now hold no intrinsic meaning save the memories they hold, like Fraggle Rock episodes, or that creepy bachelor uncle who smells like old leather and sour wine and triggers sense memories of dark closets and “Dr. Finger”. The problem with thinking about things you loved as a child is, frankly, that you’re stupid when you’re young. I’m not talking about the drinking too many Jello shooters, doing two guys at once in an alley , setting a hobo on fire with lighter fluid just to hear him burn kind of stupid. I’m talking stupid stupid, like the kind of people who do Ali G impersonations and text message Total Request Live. Kids are dumb, no matter how cute they are or how well they can spell ‘funicular’. And the best part is, when they grow up, you can make a killing reminding them of how stupid they were, by silk-screening a Deceptecons logo on an American Apparel shirt and selling it to pimpled film students on their way to a comic convention at the local Marriott. I, for one, do not take kindly to be reminded of past idiocies, which is why I burned my high school yearbook and killed anyone who remembers me with a devilock.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Reverse Mullet.

Fortunately, I am not subject to fits of childhood nostalgia. A babe of the 80s, regressive hypnotherapy and repressed memory treatment has ensured that I remember nothing of that decade save ritual Satanic abuse and the odd Wham! single, so they only thing I have to be nostalgic about is what I can remember of the 1990s. And that doesn’t leave much to look fondly upon, unless you’re a big fan of lenticular Spiderman covers and R&B stars with pencil-thin mustaches licking their lips like they’re made of black licorice. I resisted many a fad as a child, from New Kids On The Block shoelaces to Biker Mice From Mars. To this day, I have yet to see a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and the only use I had for GI Joes was to burn those of my next door neighbor at the Popsicle stick for witch-craft and sodomy. The problem with nostalgia is that it causes people to look back on bad films with crap-colored glasses, which, like trying to read a stop sign through the left lens of 3D goggles, doesn’t allow you to see these movies for what they are. Most movies target to children are lightening-paced flashes of color and jokes about passing gas, which remains thrilling to the type of people who TiVo Prison Break but is baffling to the rest of us. It leads to the kind of people who bitch about the new Star Wars trilogy in comparison to the old, which to me is as ridiculous as complaining about a new marshmallow color in Lucky Charms. All six movies are like Care Bears in space, designed to sell toys and keep the kids quiet on a Saturday afternoon. Jar Jar isn’t treading any ground an Ewok hasn’t chirped himself to death on, and the fact that the Yoda’s now done by computers instead of by muppet doesn’t change the fact that he’s a Zen Kermit for toddlers.

Being green easy is not.

So, my whole childhood is a bust. There’s nothing to be nostalgic about, nothing to look back upon and smile. All that’s left for me is nostalgia for a decade I didn’t experience, and I smartly picked 1955-1965. I had to crib on the dates, picking odd numbers, because any earlier than ‘55 and you start running into Elvis Presley musicals and educational shorts about personal hygiene. Any later, and all the movies look like they were colored by melted crayon, and the music starts to go from corny twang-rock to fourteen-minute songs about God and cocaine by bands with names like Hawkwind. And that’s where Jason and the Argonauts comes in. From firmly within my chosen decade of adulation, the film is as stupid as one would expect from a kids’ movie, with actors that require a few more scans through a Stella Adler handbook before even attempting a soap opera audition, but it has awesome stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen. A brilliant special effects artist, Harryhausen’s immediately identifiably work was not part of my experience growing up, but I wish it had been. That way, I could complain about how the new King Kong has lost the soul of the original because the effects look like a PS2 game instead of child’s flipbook. As it stands, I’ll just have to stick to sputtering angrily about the fact that Gredo shoots first.


Anonymous broadzilla said...

Congratulations. A review that simultaneously manages to dredge up a long-forgotten and best-supressed fantasy involving the Only Bros, pirate gear and a small tub of ACME Axle Grease - and that exact combination of listnessness and dread I felt every afternoon I spent in school detention enduring 'the classics' (Ben Hur, this movie, and an instructional video on the Rhythm Method). On that note, I heartily endorse a Catholic High School education to anyone interested in a career in organised crime, the Boy Scouts or Porn.

Those Harpies were cool though, weren't they?

7:49 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Yeah, they were. Nothing compared to the skeletons, though, which is the coolest scene in any movie ever.

Listlessness and dread, huh? If I can inspire one person to feel those two emotions simultaneously, I can die a happy man.

I never understood what the hell all the fuss was about for Ben Hur. Charleton Heston is a monumentally bad actor, and that movie has about eight hours of tedium leading up to a chariot race that's only worth watching if you know that someone died while filming it. And the rhythm method doesn't work.

I also have trouble understanding all the fuss about Lawrence of Arabia, though I'm a big fan of David Lean. And The Goonies. Though not a classic, it's popular among my set. That movie's just one big sugar high.

9:30 a.m.  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

I'm trying to remember the skeletons, but I keep seeing Bruce Campbell being attacked by Harpies. Sorry.

I stayed awake through Ben-Hur because my father insisted that I'd spot a tiny red Fiat racing away in the distance during the chariot scene. He lied. Either that or I blinked at precisely the wrong moment. (I tend to do that.) I did spot the trumpeter wearing a watch though.

The Goonies - c'mon, it features the fabulous and criminally underrated Corey Feldman! (Or was it Corey Haim? Those washed-up former child stars/addicts all look the same to me.)

11:13 a.m.  
Anonymous Je Suis said...

"Lenticular"? And you say I use obscure vocabulary? I had to bloody google that word to find out what it meant! And, listen, I was never into NKOTB for the music. For me, it was allabout the merch, so leave those flourescent shoelaces alone, AK. Next thing, you'l be slamming the Face Of Garth Brooks shirt. It hurts me when you talk like that.

11:16 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Broadzilla, I was already feeling guilty about writing about Harryhausen without mentioning Army of Darkness. Thanks for taking care of business. I appreciate it, but please do not metion the Coreys ever again. I still have nightmares about License to Drive. You can't see a red Fiat, but you can seen tire tracks from the camera truck in the sand.

Je Suis, I believe that this is the second time NKOTB shoelaces have come up in conversation between us. It may well become a leitmotif in our interactions.

Gone With The Wind. There's another classic I can't stand.

11:36 a.m.  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

I'm both proud and mildly ashamed to admit that I've never actually seen Gone With The Wind, but Clark Gable's last movie was The Misfits - which brings us (ok, me) neatly back to devilocks and that fantasy involving Doyle and Jerry Only...

Now I just have to work in a reference to driving and shoelaces and my work here is done.

12:05 p.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Don't go! First you have to answer how someone can be a Misfits fan but have a thing for Doyle and Jerry Only but not Danzig. That's like loving Nine Inch Nails but having a crush on Robin Finck and Danny Lohner.

12:24 p.m.  
Anonymous Jordan said...

Star Wars (episodes 1-6), Goonies, Gone With the Wind: all bad. But Hawkwind and Lawrence of Arabia? My god man, you just dismissed the only two artistic projects of any merit, ever.

4:07 p.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I'm sure I'd like Lawrence of Arabia if I took the eight hours necessary to watch it in one sitting, but I just don't have that kind of time. Hawkwind, on the other hand, is a different story. No appreciation of progressive space rock, psychedelia, or Lemmy Kilminster will allow that travesty of a group to stand.

4:13 p.m.  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:44 a.m.  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

This just in:

To compensate for his lack of height, young Glenn took to aggressively inflating his cheeks until his face resembled the interior of an Audi A4 after a head-on collision. Worried that the horizontal expansion might result in a middle parting not unlike Shane Embury's, he resorted to storing surplus hot air in his chest and bicep area instead. Grotesquely top-heavy, the tiny auteur was later forced to modify his gait to include multiple groin-thrusts in an effort to remain upright.

Besides, the guy has a glass jaw.

3:57 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Wait, wasn't there a question here about Star Wars two seconds ago?

Broadzilla, I used to think that Danzig was the funniest looking fellow in music, until I started listening to exclusively black metal. Now I realize that the stupider you look, the cooler your music is. Ergo, the new version of Danzig, old and tubby, still shirtless and nursing a bruised jaw, must therefore make the best music ever. And in mere days, I will put that theory to the test at a live Misfits reunion show.

8:59 a.m.  
Anonymous broadzilla said...

Ash, try as I might, I can't fault that logic - especially now that you've dragged the reeking carcass of black metal into the fray. Anyway, I'm too consumed with jealousy to come up with a snappy comeback.

I will pay you to bring me a lock of Doyle's hair, though.

10:14 a.m.  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

Heh, yeah, I posted a question asking what you thought of the original Star Wars trilogy, but then finished reading the review and saw that you talked about it, so I deleted the question like two minutes after posting it.

5:16 p.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Well, I often lie in my reviews, so don't go by them. I think the Star Wars films are great kids movies, but as I am not a kid, I tend not to get any more excited about them than I do a Transformers DVD release. I don't find the new ones particularly worse than the originals, actually, with the exception of Attack of the Clones, which is just boring. Revenge of the Sith I think is better than Return of the Jedi, but that's only because I hate Return of the Jedi.

6:40 p.m.  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I actually think the original trilogy are solid movies. I don't think the new prequels hold a candle to them.

You could read one of my rants about it here.

3:15 a.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Honestly, I don't see a difference between the new and the old, aside from the new ones look less like the Muppet Show. My ranking, if pressed, goes as follows, from best to worst: 5, 4, 3, 1, 6, 2.

9:17 a.m.  


1:23 p.m.  

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